In his eight years in MLB, Bryce Harper has been a Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, and six-time All-Star, and he amassed 219 home runs before turning 27 – the age in which many believe a hitter hits his prime.
No one can promise that Yankees fans will see the same out of the team’s 2020 first-round draft pick, catcher Austin Wells, but according to Wells’ high school coach, the similarities between the two players are there.
“If you remember when Bryce Harper first came into the pros, he came lights out,” Gino DiMaria, who coached Wells at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School and saw Harper play at Las Vegas High, told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media on Wednesday night. “He played hard. He tried to outrun every ground ball. He did everything. That’s what you’re going to get when you get Austin Wells.”
It’s easy to dream on the similarities; both are left-handed hitters from Sin City, both were catchers in high school (and, given questions about Wells’ defensive prowess, both may end up as outfielders), and both were first-round draft picks under special circumstances – Harper as an early high school grad with one year of JUCO ball, Wells as a draft-eligible sophomore because of his age.
Both also crushed it during their time in post-secondary ball. Wells’ sophomore season was cut short by COVID-19, but combined with his freshman season, he slashed 357/.476/.560 with seven home runs, 74 RBI, 85 runs, and 63 walks in 71 games.
Harper, meanwhile, hit .443 with 31 home runs, 98 RBI, 98 runs scored, and a .526 on-base percentage in 66 games as a 17-year-old in his lone season at the College of Southern Nevada, and parlayed that into being the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and a major-leaguer within two years.
Again, no guarantees of similar success, but Yankees Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer loves what he’s seen already out of Wells, whom he liked enough as a high schooler to select in the 35th round of the 2018 draft.
“We are very happy to get Austin Wells. We thought he was one of the top hit and power combinations in the draft,” Oppenheimer said in the Yankees’ official release announcing the pick. “We love his desire and makeup, along with his athleticism. We have known him for years and seen him progress quite a bit behind the plate to allow us to believe he can be an impact guy.”
A relationship built and a marriage two years in the making, and one Wells’ high school coach thinks will work out just fine under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
“They came after him and they stayed on him. You don’t see that a lot,” DiMaria told Kuty about the Yankees’ relationship with Wells. “And to play for a place like New York, that’s got to be even more of a bigger dream come true for him, I can tell you that. They’re going to get a hard-nosed player, a player that’s going to leave everything on that field.”
Wells has also drawn some comps to Kyle Schwarber due to his size and game, but either way, anywhere on the spectrum between the two All-Stars is, as WFAN’s Yankees play-by-play man would say, AAAAAAAAA YANKEES…WIN!